Mater Dei defeats Brea Olinda with fourth-quarter comeback and could return to No. 1 in the state next week due to Windward’s upset loss in three overtimes earlier this week. Lynwood, Summit and Arroyo Grande also win titles.
For three quarters and most of the fourth, it looked like a third big upset of the week in the CIF Southern Section girls basketball championship was more than a possibility in the Division I-AA final played Friday night at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Brea Olinda of Brea had a 39-36 lead over two-time defending CIF Division I state champ Mater Dei of Santa Ana and took a 45-43 advantage midway through the final quarter on a pair of free throws by senior Taylor Spears.
In the last three minutes of the game, however, Mater Dei (30-3) reared up and slapped down the upset special with an 11-2 run that gave the Monarchs a 54-47 triumph.
Earlier in the week, Brea Olinda (23-6) recorded the first of the major upsets when the Ladycats, who were only No. 10 in the state at the time, knocked off No. 4 Long Beach Poly in the Division I-AA semifinals.
Then on Wednesday, in the Division IV-AA championship, state No. 1 Windward of Los Angeles went down in a triple-overtime defeat at the hands of No. 16 Serra of Gardena.
“Oh, yeah, we knew all about those upsets,” said Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan. “I’ve been coaching 27 years and last year we beat Brea when they were No. 1 in the country. Anything happens at this point of the season.”
The Monarchs didn’t take their first lead of the second half until 1:56 remained on a lay-up by senior McDonald’s All-American Nirra Fields. That made the score 47-45, then with 1:42 left Kaija Powell made a free throw. With 39 seconds on the clock, Fields struck again by blocking a shot and then with 24.7 seconds left she made two more free throws.
“Our rotations (on defense) were really bad in the first half and we were really upset at halftime,” Kiernan said. “We were a little more focused in those last few sequences.”
Fields finished with 19 points to lead all scorers and added nine rebounds. Jordan Adams, Mater Dei’s other McDonald’s All-American, had 10 points, three steals and three assists. Her offensive rebound put-back basket late in the third quarter and her steal in the fourth quarter that was followed by 1-of-2 free throws helped the Monarchs turn the tide. Sophomore Khalia Lark also came through in the bright lights as she scored 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
Brea’s bid for the upset was keyed by senior Keitra Wallace, who made 8-of-9 shots from the floor, scored 16 points and had eight rebounds. Spears also had eight rebounds and scored 11 points.
Who’s No. 1 now?
With No. 1 Windward losing to Serra and No. 2 Mater Dei defeating Brea in CIFSS championships, it looks like the Monarchs will have to move up to the No. 1 position in next week’s state rankings.
Just like two years ago after the state finals, however, when it was Mater Dei that was flipped up to No. 1 in front of St. Mary’s of Stockton due to a head-to-head win, this time the Monarchs could be in the same boat.
While Windward will have to fall next week, the Wildcats still own a head-to-head victory at Mater Dei in the Nike Extravaganza played in early February. If Windward comes back to win the CIF Southern California regional title in Division IV (not only Serra but state No. 3 La Jolla Country Day will be in that bracket) and then wins the Division IV state crown and Mater Dei also is the Division I state champ, the flip will have to happen again. It’s distasteful in any ranking, but consistency is even more important.
The odd team out for a final No. 1 ranking because of Windward losing and Mater Dei going to No. 1 might be La Jolla Country Day. The Torreys don’t have a head-to-head win over Mater Dei, although they could have a common opponent advantage by the end of the season. La Jolla Country Day’s loss is to Long Beach Poly, a team the Torreys also have beaten, but Poly losing to Brea doesn’t help. If Brea had held on for the upset on Friday, La Jolla Country Day would be No. 1 next week and would have been in a position to stay there.
In other CIFSS finals played Friday at the Anaheim Convention Center:
Div. I-A: Summit (Fontana) 56, Huntington Beach 51
The Skyhawks (26-3) won their first CIFSS title by making their free throws in the last minute of the game to hold off the Oilers, who came back from a nine-point deficit in the second half and at one point tied the score in the fourth quarter.
Summit, which is No. 8 overall in the Cal-Hi Sports top 25, has been led throughout the playoffs by Oregon-bound senior center Jillian Alleyne. She shined against Huntington Beach as well with 17 points and 20 rebounds.
Senior guard Kelsey Minato knocked down 24 points for the Oilers, who assured themselves of a high final state ranking by avenging one of their losses with a semifinal victory over El Toro. They were making their first CIFSS title game appearance since 1978 when they won the Class 4A crown (the section’s highest division at that time).
Div. II-AA: Lynwood 66, J.W. North (Riverside) 55
Sometimes, the Cal-Hi rankings don’t beat the seedings, but in this division they sure did as the Knights proved their No. 5 seed was too low with a solid victory over the Huskies.
Lynwood (25-4), No. 10 in the latest state top 20, used an 18-6 second-quarter to take control over J.W. North (27-5), which was No. 17 in the state.
Priscilla Lopez (14 points), Amber Blockmon (13 points) and Shahana Zeigler (12 points) paced a balanced attack for coach Ellis Barfield, who captured his seventh section title. Barfield’s last CIFSS crown came in 2006 in the top division. The school also won a section title under coach Van Girard in 1986.
The Huskies were led by junior center Priscilla Brooks, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Div. III-AAA: Arroyo Grande 45, Rio Mesa (Oxnard) 32
Some NBA teams could use some tips on how to shoot free throws from the Eagles, who buried 17-of-21 from the line en route to their triumph over the Spartans.
Senior guard Heather Madrigal, who started last year for St. Joseph of Santa Maria when that team won the CIF Division III state title, made 10-of-10 on free throws and had 12 points with 10 rebounds for Arroyo Grande (25-5). Senior center Lindsey Wolf led the way with 17 points and six rebounds. She also was 7-of-9 from the line.
Rio Mesa (25-6) featured junior guard Ashley Ontiveros with 11 points and senior center Riley Abraham with four points and 17 rebounds.
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